When I was in my last year at school (and getting bugger all pocket money, btw), I’d spend most Friday evenings in the Big Smoke.
Friday Night Shopping was as good as it got in Auckland in the mid 60’s.
Shops actually stayed open until 8 p.m.
So I’d be on the bus at 4 o’clock and cruising the book shops and record stores by 5.
Having young teachers wasn’t a given in those days – most of them would be your parents’ age and have war stories to relate (Ted Malone, my English teacher, reckoned that he should actually have been awarded the Iron Cross for the number of aircraft that he’d pranged on take-off or landing…) – but Russell Aitken was an exception.
He was cool. And he was only about 10 years older that we were, but we didn’t know it at the time.
I mean he was a teacher.
And teachers were old.
He used to take groups of us the the New Vision Gallery in Auckland in the evening and get interesting people (significant artist Colin McCahon, history professor Keith Sinclair) to talk to us about Modrian and Miro and we’d drink real coffee and stay out so late that he’d have enraged parents on the phone the next day with “You’re corrupting our boys..”
Everyone was smoking or slygrogging.
Bill Thomas and the Takapuna Crew even had girlfriends and were – you know – DOING it.
So all these famous painters’ and architects’ names were in the back of your mind and I’d regularly splurge 2s 6d on Methuen’s “The Little Library of Art”.
Modrian, Miro and a painter no-one had talked to us about, but whose stark graphics, over-emphasised verticals and strong perspectives jumped out at me.
Imagine my pleasure to visit the Museum für Moderne Kunst (Museum of Modern Art) in Frankfurt the other day for a major exhibition of his work.
What a treat.
And thanks again for that, Russell.
Er, I mean Mr Aitken….